Thursday, January 31, 2013

Puffins as Mood Enhancers

6x6 inches, paper collage

I went upstairs yesterday afternoon, and I did some mood improvement therapy in the form of finding background papers to set off this 1940's photo of a puffin from National Geographic that I salvaged from my local consignment shop.  I finally settled on an altered page from a modern NG, part of a celestial map, a bit of a photo of snow covered pine branches, a scrap of blue painted tissue paper, and a narrow strip of origami paper.  I wanted a touch of red and yellow to echo the colors in the puffin's beak, and the origami paper fit the requirement.   The best surprise was the way the faded black in the bird photo intensified to vibrant black when I put on a final coat of gloss gel medium. The photo could have been taken yesterday.

Yes, feeling much better, thank you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sulphur Butterfly Collage

6x6 inches, paper collage

I've been having a difficult time lately working up enthusiasm for two projects that I both need and want (I think) to do.  I've been amassing a stack of these small collages, something that I find to be both interesting and entertaining.  But other things keep steering me toward detours on my road to getting enough of these small collages finished to restock the galleries that carry my work this spring. 

I promised my weekly art group, which meets at a local senior center, to demonstrate a technique for creating imaginary animals using scribbles and photographs of cracked asphalt and concrete.  It is fun, a good way to play and get the old creative juices flowing, but preparing the materials and demonstration samples is taking time away from my primary art goal.

I also am writing a first person talk for a local group of local history enthusiasts about a local woman whose family has been very influential in town.  This project is also a major detour away from my studio, since it requires hours and hours of reading, library and internet research, and writing.  I finally started composing the actual script, which will need editing for all sorts of things, accuracy, time, narrative interest, and then of course will need learning.  

Then, surprise! A mental pothole in the road toward completing this program.  Recently I joined a group of long-time retired friends for dinner, and in the middle of a nice glass of cabernet one of them started in bitterly complaining about a title her local book group chose to read.  Who the h--- wants to read about HER?  Guess to whom she was referring. Yes indeed, the very woman about whom I am researching and writing.  I can only hope the folks who asked me to prepare the program will be more enthused.  But my motivation for continuing the work is significantly diminished. 

I know that I should not take a casual comment tossed out over cocktails personally.  I know that she did not intend to shoot down my enthusiasm for my work.  I know.  I keep telling myself to brush the comment aside, but dang it, I would rather do almost anything right now but sit down and write about a person who inspires such contempt.  

I think I will head upstairs on this gray and snowy day and do some cutting a gluing, a process I find very therapeutic. Then I promise I will sit down for at least an hour to write.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Twilight Zoning

Invaders, 5x7" acrylic

It's winter, and I am in hibernation mode.  I'm not alone; I went out to K&W Greenery a couple days ago to visit the koi and sit in a warm greenhouse with lots of green tropical plants.  The koi are definitely moving slowly these days.  In the summer they swarm to the surface of the water for fishy treats, but they couldn't be bothered to do anything more than slowly fan the water and roll their eyes up toward me.  I can identify with that.

Winter finds me reading for hours, researching this and that online, and sitting in front of the wee television in my studio watching programs I have recorded.  The other night I had a half hour to kill, and I decided to watch one of my stash of saved Twilight Zone programs.  It turned out to be The Invaders, from the show's second season.  Agnes Moorehead plays a woman alone in a rustic cabin, terrorized by tiny spacemen.  It was gripping.  She never says a word, just wanders from dark room to attic with a candle and often a knife or an axe, determined to save herself.  The twist at the end was not surprising to me now because I've seen so many of these programs, but I'm sure when it aired it was a shocker.  What really appealed to me was Moorehead, how well she portrayed both her fear and her determination to survive.  I went back and played the program a second time, pausing occasionally to sketch her face or posture in the dramatic lighting.  This little acrylic painting came from those sketches - though I omitted the axe she held in the original shot.  Her expression is creepy enough. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Yoga Stretch - Cat Style

Bucky, our rescue cat, is a lucky critter.  She lives inside, has staff to provide Meow Mix and an occasional saucer of milk, to police her commode, and provide massage when required.  Plus she has warm sunbeams on chilly winter days to caress her furry belly. 

Life is good when your basic needs are provided.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's time to look back at what I managed to read in 2012.  As I suspected, I read fewer title than in 2011, about seventy books.  Of those, I listened to about a dozen in audio format in the car, a way to multitask. This past year I found I read fewer titles, but took more notes, and chose more carefully than usual.  A number of my nonfiction titles were related to art, and I found myself really studying them, putting notes an sketches in my little journals.

I have associated myself with organized book groups a little less often than previously, mostly because of my reluctance to read titles chosen by other people.  If what other folks want to read and what I want to read happen to be the same I am delighted to join in a good discussion, but I am beginning to realize that my time on earth is limited, and if I don't get going on those books that are calling out to me, I may never get to them at all.  I am not, for example, a big fan of cozy mysteries, a genre that many many other people seem to enjoy very much.  I rather like speculative fiction and stories that feature supernatural themes, and I have learned that many other of my reading friends do not share that preference.  To paraphrase a poster on the topic of wine that used to be tacked inside one of my cupboard doors, "Life is too short to read uninteresting books."  Another reason book clubs are losing their appeal for me is that many of the participants seem primarily focused on general chit chat and food and drink.  Even my local library club started bringing plates of treats,  something I do not need,  though I enjoy.  So little by little I find my reading to be a solitary activity.

Here are a few nonfiction titles that I especially enjoyed last year.

 Canadian History for Dummies, by Will Ferguson,  was just what I wanted to help understand a little more about the political and economic forces that influenced New England ancestors on both sides of my family tree to live in Canada.  I was also fascinated by the parallels between US history and Canadian history, and the different spin Will Ferguson puts on events like the War of 1812.  The book was clear, and not too detailed for my general level of interest.

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F. Kennedy, by Caroline Kennedy, was a boxed set of CDs, loaned to me by a friend.  I initially took them with little hope of being particularly interested, but both Caroline's introduction and the series of interviews with Jackie soon fascinated me.  Listening to her familiar voice, her opinions on living with "Jack" and all those 1960s politicians gave me new insight into her life as First Wife, and as a mother.

I have never spent too much time listening to Patti Smith as a singer, but I was happily engaged reading her memoir Just Kids about her relationship with artist and photographer Robert Mapptlethorpe.  Smith is able to recreate time and place in a clear and sometimes poetic way, and I found myself almost unable to put the book down.  I found myself making a playlist of music she mentions, just to help set the spirit of the times.

A few years ago, after I read The Orchid Thief, I became a fan of writer Susan Orlean, a woman I am convinced can make anything interesting.  Rin Tin Tin did not disappoint.  It is as much a portrait of the owner and promoter of the original Tin Tin Tin (there have been many dogs with that name), Lee Duncan, as it is the story of the famous German Shepherd.  While my choice of pet these days is a cat, when I was growing up my father owned and adored a series of German Shepherds, so I know how intelligent and loyal they can be.  This book keep my happy interest for a long time.

Truck,: A Love Story by Wisconsin author/musician Michael Perry, was another borrowed book.  My dad's cousin, a delightful and well read woman, loans me books she enjoyed, and I have the added pleasure of getting to discuss them with her.  Perry is  also well-read, and alternates between a no nonsense style and a sort of poetic style, especially when discussing things close to his heart - friends and family, gardens, and even an International truck that he and his buddy restored.  I find reading Perry to be reliably comfortable and familiar as a favorite flannel shirt. I've been listening to more Iris Dement and Greg Brown lately, too.

My last nonfiction recommendation was a book my husband read, liked, and passed on to me before it had to go back to the library.  Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, by Barry Estabrook.  Probably everyone knows already that winter tomatoes are just red decoration on a plate.  They are hard and have no taste - like little alien imposters from a science fiction movies.  Estabrook not only explains how and why this happened, but also talks lots about how the agricultural workers who plant, weed, fertilize and harvest these red hockey pucks are often exploited.  It reinforced my feeling that the only tomatoes worth eating grows in a pot on my deck, or comes from my sister-in-law's garden.

There were other nonfiction titles I liked too, a biography with lush color reproduction of painting by Wolf Kahn, Just My Type, a book about typeface, who developed it and how it affects our impression of what we read, The Singing Wilderness, Sigurd Olson's essays about the northern wilderness through an entire year.  All of them informed and pleased me.  Happy reading in 2013 to everyone.